Birth Control

When it comes to your sexual health, choosing a form of birth control (also known as contraception) can be a hard decision. With all the different forms of birth control that exist, you may find yourself asking which one is the “right” one for you. People may want different birth control methods for different reasons, such as preventing pregnancy, protecting against sexually transmitted infections or helping control menstrual cycle (period) symptoms. Although they all work to serve similar purposes, it’s important to understand the main differences between all birth control forms.

Most Effective Forms

It is important to note that the most effective form of birth control is abstinence. Abstinence simply means avoiding or not engaging in something. However, if you and your partner choose to be intimate, here are some proven birth control methods for females:

  • IUD (Intrauterine Device): This highly recommended form of birth control is a “T” shaped device and is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider. This form can last for up to 10 years and uses an active ingredient that prevents pregnancy over 99% of the time. This form is also convenient and low maintenance as it does not require daily insertion.
  • Implant: The implant comes in the form of a rod, about the size of a toothpick, that is inserted under the skin of your arm. It is also highly recommended as it provides protection for three years and is also over 99% effective.

Both IUDs and implants are also effective at controlling menstrual cycle symptoms such as cramping and heavy bleeding. For some, you may no longer have a period while using these forms of birth control or you may experience very light bleeding. These will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Highly Effective Forms of Birth Control

Highly effective forms of birth control are those that are mostly provided by a health care provider but have a higher chance of conception during intimacy than the most effective forms. Take a look at some of the options for females:

  • Shot: This form is an injection that provides contraception for 13 weeks. The typical effectiveness rate for this form is 97%. This shot can be given by your provider’s office or you can inject it yourself at home. If you give it to yourself at home, this can improve your success of getting it on time!
  • Pill: This form of birth control is a pill that is typically dispensed in one month cycles. These pills contain estrogen and progesterone hormones, hormones your body already makes, which are the main hormones controlling the menstrual cycle (period). This form is 92-97% effective. If this form is chosen, it is important that you remember to take the pills daily and around the same time each day.
  • Ring: This form is a small, flexible, plastic ring that is inserted in the vagina one time each month. It is about two inches in diameter and is a prescription-only form of birth control. The ring is 92-97% effective. The ring is lower maintenance compared to other forms such as the pill because you only think about it once a month.
  • Patch: The birth control patch is a birth control device that releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. It works by stopping ovulation, the release of an egg. If this form is chosen, you would wear the patch once a week for three weeks. On the fourth week, the patch is not worn to allow for normal menstrual bleed (period). The patch is 92-97% effective.

These forms of birth control are also great at controlling menstrual cycle symptoms but do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Moderately Effective Forms of Birth Control

Moderately effective forms of birth control are those most accessible to people but have the highest rate of possible conception during intimacy. If you and your partner are concerned about a potential conception, consider one of the highly effective or most effective methods of birth control first. The following options are often used by males as a form of birth control:

  • Condoms: Because condoms are only 87% effective, it is recommended not to use them as your only birth control while sexually active. Condoms are best used in combination with another type of contraception. However, condoms do provide the best protection against sexually transmitted infections.
  • Withdrawal: This form of birth control is when no other form of protection is used except taking the penis outside of the vagina when ejaculating in hopes of preventing pregnancy. This method is not recommended as it is only 71-76% effective and is the result of many unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

If you’ve decided you’re done having children and would like a more permanent option, talk with your women’s health provider about tubal ligation. Additionally, a vasectomy is an option for men.

Choosing a type of birth control is a very personal decision. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each to make a careful decision that best fits your needs. If you would like to further explore your birth control options, the Ryan Family Planning Clinic at UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health is now offering telehealth appointments. Call 502-588-4400 and request a telehealth appointment to make a birth control plan.

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Article by: Tanya Franklin, M.D., MSPH

Tanya Franklin, M.D., MSPH, is an obstetrician and gynecologist with the Ryan Family Planning Center, a part of UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health. She completed her medical degree, internship, residency and master’s in public health at University of Louisville. Her philosophy of care is: “I want to empower women with knowledge and serve as their partner in health care choices. I believe when women make their health a priority, their families can thrive. As an OB/GYN, I see my impact not only through my female patients but also on their loved ones.”

All posts by Tanya Franklin, M.D., MSPH
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